Game 3 Matchup: Steelers @ Buccaneers
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When the Buccaneers have the ball: QB Josh Freeman has won four of his past five starts and at 6 feet 6, 248 pounds is tough to bring down. He has made several plays downfield after shaking off potential sacks. That's why he is often referred to as "Little Ben" -- a comparison to Ben Roethlisberger. Still, their primary objective is to run the ball, even though they have not been productive (214 yards on 64 attempts). RB Carnell "Cadillac" Williams appears to be fully recovered from two major knee injuries that limited his 2007 and 2008 seasons, but he is averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. He will have a tough time against the Steelers, who are allowing an average of just 2.2 yards per carry.
When the Steelers have the ball: QB Charlie Batch will make his first start since the 2007 regular-season finale in Baltimore. Right CB Ronde Barber is in his 14th NFL season and leads the Buccaneers with two interceptions, both of which have come when he moves into the slot in the nickel defense. But Barber's lack of speed makes him susceptible to deep passes, something the Steelers will try if he lines up against WR Mike Wallace. The Buccaneers, however, like to use their other corner, Aqib Talib, to shadow the opponent's top receiver. Strong-side LB Quincy Black is emerging as a dynamic playmaker, especially when the Buccaneers switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense. Black had a sack and a big tackle for loss in the victory last week in Carolina. The defense has allowed only 21 points and 280.5 ypg.
DT Gerald McCoy ... He was the third overall pick in the draft, the highest interior lineman drafted by Tampa Bay since Warren Sapp in 1995 (12th overall). He has two tackles for losses and three quarterback pressures in two games despite getting double-teamed at times. He will go against rookie C Maurkice Pouncey, who played against McCoy in the 2009 BCS national championship game. The Buccaneers occasionally will switch to a 3-4 defensive front and use McCoy at nose tackle and defensive end.
This will be the first time Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has faced his former team. He was the secondary coach in Tampa Bay from 2001-05. ... The Steelers are 7-1 lifetime against the Buccaneers and are 5-1 in Tampa, not counting their Super Bowl XLIII victory against the Arizona Cardinals. ... The Buccaneers, 3-13 a season ago, are 2-0 for the first time since 2005.
To win, the Buccaneers must ...
1 Get picks in batches. They have four interceptions in two games and have allowed opposing QBs a combined 55.6 rating -- second lowest in the NFL.
2 Have Josh be Free(man). Running the ball is not going to work against the Steelers, so the Buccaneers' second-year QB has to make plays downfield.
3 Keep Harrison in the Penn. That job falls to LT Donald Penn, who has to keep OLB James Harrison out of the Buccaneers' backfield.
To win, the Steelers must ...
1 Jostle Josh. If Vince Young was confounded by Dick LeBeau's defensive looks, what do you think will happen to Freeman?
2 Win with Winslow. They have to be aware of the Buccaneers' tight end on third down, when he has all eight of his catches.
3 Keep Cadillac in the garage. They have shut down Michael Turner and Chris Johnson, allowing them a combined 76 yards on 35 attempts.
First Published September 26, 2010 12:00 am